Women’s soccer (16-1-1, 9-1 in the NESCAC) faced a devastating 1-1 loss to Conn. College in the NESCAC finals last Sunday. The Ephs, ranked No. 6 in the NSCAA Div. III Coaches’ Poll, scored an equalizer in the 87th minute and held on through two periods of extra time, but fell to the Camels 4-3 in a penalty shootout. Last Saturday, Williams downed Middlebury 2-0 to clinch a place in the finals for the eighth-straight year.
“We are incredibly proud of the way we battled in the two games this weekend,” tri-captains Hannah Van Wetter ’15.
The women nearly scored just two minutes into Saturday’s game against Middlebury, as Crystal Lewin ’16 slotted a cross to Audrey Thomas ’17 in the box. Thomas took a chance on goal, but her effort was blocked by the Panthers’ defense. The Ephs had a couple more unsuccessful chances to score in the first half yet nearly let up a goal with just eight minutes left before halftime. The Ephs’ goalie Van Wetter couldn’t quite get her hands on a hard Panthers shot, but the ball ricocheted off the crossbar and out of trouble.
Although the Ephs forced the Panthers’ goalie to make several saves, the game remained scoreless for the first 70 minutes of play. In the 72nd minute, Alison Magruder ’15 attacked a pass back to the Panthers’ goalie and gained control of the ball, sliding it into the net to put the Ephs up 1-0.
Five minutes later, the Panthers again failed to clear the ball, which put Lewin in perfect position to cross the ball into the box. Lewin’s pass was timed perfectly, as Kristi Kirshe ’17 headed in her 11th goal this season. Kirshe’s score put the Ephs up 2-0, a lead that would stand to push the Ephs into Sunday’s final match.
“Middlebury is a huge rival with whom we have a lot of history, and we respect them greatly as a team,” tri-captain Hana Tomozawa ’15 said. “To play against some of the best midfielders in the league in a NESCAC semifinal is a great challenge, and we succeeded by playing as a team and finishing our chances.”
Last Sunday against Conn. College, the women tested their opponents’ goalie early and often, with four shots on goal in the opening 10 minutes. Kirshe had a header that couldn’t quite reach the back of the net, followed a minute later by a run from midfield that resulted in a shot that was barely deflected away.
Conn. College made the most of their few opportunities, building up to a long free kick in the 33rd minute. Van Wetter tipped the ball upwards out of danger, but it hit the crossbar and fell right to a Camel forward, who slotted the ball in the goal to give the Camels a 1-0 lead.
“Going down a goal is something that we don’t do very often and our team showed incredible heart in battling back,” tri-captain Lilly Wellenbach ’15 said.
Williams started the second half strong, launching the first nine shots of the half, but failed to find an equalizer. In a span of two minutes midway through the second half, Kirshe launched two of her 15 shots of the game, and Thomas attempted a hard shot that the Camels’ goalie scooped up with ease.
As the clock ticked down, the Ephs became more desperate for a score, and finally broke through with less than four minutes to go. Maddie Swarr ’17 dished the ball to Kirshe in the penalty box, who worked the ball through the defense and nailed a firm shot past the goalie to tie the game at 1-1. This was Kirshe’s 12th goal of the season, tying her for the NESCAC lead with teammate Thomas.
As the game went into extra time, the Ephs sought a golden goal, but the Camels’ defense held strong and kept the score tied. Williams had a chance when Lewin sent a precise pass to Kirshe in the box, but Kirshe’s shot went just over the bar. After two overtime periods, the game went into penalty kicks.
After missing their first two kicks, the Ephs evened up the score in the shootout at 1-1 with two shooters from both teams. Williams stayed even with Conn. College as Mai Mitsuyama ’16 and Jacqueline Simeone ’18 also netted their kicks, sending the game into a sudden-death shootout. After a Camel success, the Camels’ goalie guessed correctly and made a critical stop to give the Camels a 4-3 victory in the shootout and the NESCAC title.
“While losing in [penalty kicks] is a horribly disappointing result, we know that we will only get better heading into NCAAs this weekend,” Van Wetter said.
Williams earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Div. III Championship and will host Lasell at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The winner of this game will face either Ithaca or Springfield on Sunday at 1 p.m. on Cole Field.
“This part of the season is extremely exciting, as it is a time in which all of the pieces come together, and all of our players reach another competitive level,” Tomozawa said. “Moving forward, we know we have a special team and we believe in ourselves now more than ever.”